The internet is rife with conspiracy theories about secret societies that allegedly control the world. Some of these theories have seeped into mainstream culture, especially after the publication of Dan Brown’s popular novel The Da Vinci Code.
One of the most talked about groups by conspiracy theorists is the Freemasons, but contrary to what some Doomsday Sayers might have you believe, there’s nothing much secretive about them at all.
To start with, London, much like the rest of the UK, is full of Masonic lodges, and they’re pretty easy to find. Never mind the big signs in front of their buildings that clarify what they are, a simple search on Google gives away their exact locations.
The largest lodge in London, called the United Grand Lodge of England, is slap bang in the middle of the city on 60 Great Queen Street. It is just a short walk down from Covent Garden Underground Station and is so massive that it’s impossible to miss.
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The Queen and Prince Edward are first cousins
(Image: Max Mumby / Indigo / Getty Images)
As an organisation, they’re pretty transparent. The Freemasons are a registered charity in the UK, and are in fact the second largest charity in the UK after the National Lottery. Furthermore, the United Grand Lodge of England can be found on Companies House, along with a list of its past and present board members.
Their doors are also open to visitors, who can book guided tours of the premises that include access to the main Freemasons Hall where members gather to discuss important matters. The hall is even used to host the occasional classical music concert, which anyone who buys a ticket is able to attend.
Even more interesting is that the head of the lodge, who members refer to as the ‘Grand Master’, is none other than the Queen’s first cousin Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent. Having been appointed in June 1967, Edward has been serving the lodge as Grand Master for almost 55 years, making him its longest-serving head.
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Edward, 86, is the son of the Queen’s paternal uncle Prince George. In other words, Edward’s father was the brother of Queen Elizabeth’s father King George VI. He became the Duke of Kent when he was just six after his father was killed in a plane crash in 1942.
By the age of 16, he was already carrying out his royal duties, first by walking behind the coffin of his uncle King George in 1952, and then by paying homage to the Queen on her coronation in 1953. Like many in the Royal Family, he went to Eton College and graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, after which he pursued a career in the Army.
He served abroad in Hong Kong and Cyprus before being stationed in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. He was a lieutenant-colonel when he retired from the Army in 1976, but was later promoted to the position of Major General and then Field Marshall.
Prince Edward and his wife Katherine live in Kensington Palace
(Image: Georges De Keerle / Getty Images)
Edward married in 1961 to Katherine Worsley, the Duchess of Kent, who in 1994 became the first member of the Royal Family to convert to Catholicism since the Act of Settlement law was enacted 1701. The law, which was designed to keep Catholics out of the Royal Family, ousted any member of the family who converted to Catholicism or married a Catholic from the line of succession to the Crown.
Their son, George Windsor, was for this reason barred from being an heir to the throne because he married a Catholic, but he was later allowed to reclaim his right after the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 abolished the rule that prevented Catholics from being heirs for over 300 years.
The couple’s other son, Nicholas Windsor, also converted to Catholicism, and has been very vocal about his religious views, especially regarding abortion, which he described as posing a greater societal threat than Al Qaeda.
Despite being only 41st in line to the throne, Edward is also a royal in other countries as well. His mother, Princess Marina, was also the Princess of Greece and Denmark. His maternal grandmother, meanwhile, was Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia. She was a granddaughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia.
In total, the Freemasons boast of around 5 million members worldwide, and around 200,000 of them live in the UK. Although Edward is the head of the United Grand Lodge of England, he is not the head of all Freemasons worldwide.
Freemason lodges act independently of one another, and there is no known international leader of the movement – or at least that is what we’re being told. But at face value, we can say that they’re not as mysterious as they are portrayed in fiction.
Prince Edward and his wife Katherine live together in the south-east corner of Kensington Palace and are thus neighbours of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Princess Kate.
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